The first thing that you notice about Camp Wavelength is how small the venue is. Nestled into Toronto Island’s Artscape Gibraltar Point, Camp Wavelength is so small that it feels communal and it seems to take place in a venue that is actually someone’s large backyard. In fact, the venue only holds 1000 people though it feels like way less. This lends an intimacy to all performances and events that I have never experienced at other festivals and most other concerts that I have attended.
Maylee Todd, who refused to accept anything less than passionate audience participation, emceed the event. In doing so she changed Camp Wavelength from communal to a community. Her jokes, strong personality and performance art ensured that attention was maintained and that spirits remained high. Her improvised introductions of each band brought everyone on stage with laughter and applause.
And the bands were good. Very, very good. When I arrived on Friday evening the band Holy Fuck was loudly looping over themselves. A noise-funk band that sounds like R2-D2 turned inside out and transformed into a DJ, they were proof that Camp Wavelength, despite the size, did not skimp on quality. With the bands Ravetapes, Allegories, Above Top Secret, and Zoo Owl following Holy Fuck, I felt bad for anyone on the island who could hear the festival. Not because of the volume but because there would be a constant reminder in the air that they were missing out.
To say that Camp Wavelength is only a music festival ignores the community that is created. As the venue is so small you quickly recognise people and learn who are the best people to dance with and who are the best people to watch dance. And with the venue right next to the lake festivalgoers spent the morning relaxing and swimming in Lake Ontario. Later, the synchronised swim team In Synch performed for everyone assembled on the beach and, in the true embodiment of Camp Wavelength’s camaraderie, Saturday morning again with a jog led by members of that evening’s headlining act The Wooden Sky.
Musical standouts for the day began with Blonde Elvis. Like the name suggests, the band performs reimagined ‘50s rock and roll with a clean sound, an impressive vocal range and clanging and flanging guitars. Prince Rama brought energy that only one other band could surpass and a sound that was heavy with rhythm and Ghostbusters-like synthesizers. Prince Rama had the crowd dancing in the palm of their hands for their entire set. The Wooden Sky was the headliner on Saturday night (though late night bands did follow) and they brought their indie/country-twinged rock to the stage with what was the largest crowd of the evening. They brought with them an atmosphere that made you think of a small Canadian town that has a big sky overhead. In doing so they were perhaps the best embodiment of the locality that Camp Wavelength brings to every patron. Moon King was my Pick of the Festival and brought the greatest level of energy to the Camp Wavelength stage. Their bombshell of a performance is something of which Camp Wavelength should be proud.
Despite the on-site camping, I elected to take advantage of the regular island ferries (forgoing the specially-organized late night ferries) to return to my apartment on Saturday night. When I returned on Sunday afternoon only a few dedicated fans remained. The people that left missed out. My Pick of the Day was Montreal-based Pierre Kwenders. With his leopard skin hat and undeniable rhythm, the fewer people in attendance only meant that there was more room for dancing. It is a shame that more people didn’t stay for bands like The Weather Station and Do Make Say Think, who were slated to perform on Sunday night.
All in all, Camp Wavelength suffered from few weaknesses but had many strengths. The failure of some food trucks to materialize, which admittedly is not Camp Wavelength’s fault, was undoubtedly a hindrance on an otherwise excellent few days. But this was easily overcome by the $5 Steamwhistle, adjoining beach, friendly environment and amazing band lineup. It at all times is a friendly festival that feels local, like you know everyone there. It makes you think that all music festivals should be so small and chock-full of talent. Camp Wavelength deserves to be a bigger date on Toronto summer concert calendar. I know that I am already looking forward to next year.